Been mulling how to begin with this one. I have always been one to believe that a person has an indelible right to tell their story, from the heart, the gut, even if it makes others squirm a bit or uncomfortable.
The truth is, for a long time I’ve been afraid. When my Mom passed in 2016, I really hit a downward spiral. I panicked at the idea of living on my own, and I was deeply bereft at the idea of leaving my childhood home, this time for the last time.
I remember how I got an apartment, then canceled on it, and was invited to stay with a college friend and her husband. Though my kid was not keen on switching schools, she soon adjusted and became enamored of her new district. I was too. For the first time, she was being bussed to and fro, she enjoyed the idea of all of her classes being on one floor, she relished in the new opportunities that lay ahead of her, and I appreciated the cheap rent.
At first, things seemed to be great. We occupied separate rooms (with the exception of the living room and kitchen), enjoyed having dogs in the house again, and I really enjoyed having a new family life to come home to.
Things took a turn just a month in, when my friend, Cris* (not her real name) demanded that I and her hubby Rick* (not his name either) get in her car as she had something to speak to us about. I could tell she was mad, but the idea of being *ordered* like a petulant child to go somewhere was anathema to me, especially in midlife. Still, I didn’t see much choice in the matter, so I went. She took us to a local park, got out and literally began jumping up and down and screaming at both of us.
I was fearing that I was about to get evicted, Rick just stood there with his hands in his pockets staring at the floor. She was mostly mad at him for shirking doing any household duties while she felt she was doing everything.
For me, she felt like I wasn’t holding up my end very well at all. I could see her point, but one thing became apparently clear–Cris doesn’t do grieving people very well. Yes, I could’ve been better at organization, neatness, etc. I just was hanging on. Everything seemed so overwhelming. She said to me that “my depression was making her depressed.” As much as it hurt to hear that, I realized I had some improving to do, especially since my tenancy depended on her happiness, a crappy place to be, but where I was nonetheless. Out went grieving.
So, we stayed and got through the winter, the holidays, had some laughs, and when spring came, I got seeds to plant with, and was OK’d to set up a garden in the back. However, one day I came home, and she had moved all of my stuff to the back, away from the sunshine, and where it flooded. My growing season turned into a disaster.
We all have quirks, and I know living with someone else, even family is bound to be difficult at times. But as time wore on, we wore on each other. She would blast the tv late at night, so I got noise-canceling headphones. When it snowed, I would get a knock at 12am to move my car. My daughter rearranged the fridge to make it neater, but they let it go back to pot. She and I loved to cook, Cris freaked out that we’d burn the house down. Even making Christmas cookies made her itchy. And yet, I grew up with cooking. It was a pleasure and a way to enjoy life. Time it seemed was working against Cris and I. She preferred to eat out, I wanted to save money and cook.
Towards the end of that following year, she hinted that she wanted us to find our own place. We tried, there was a local family that rented out parts of their home, but one of their illegal dwellings was infested with black mold and fleas. Other places were too expensive, and again I was trying hard not to have my kid switch schools yet again.
She would on occasion go into tirades, with me, with my kid, with Rick. One minute things would seem fine and the next she exploded. She didn’t even have much sympathy for my daughter after she suddenly lost her dad. She snapped at her one day and my kid ran off crying. It reminded me too often of growing up with my mother, who would lash out with a slap and cutting words. So, I further learned to overcompensate and when Rick didn’t do his regular chores, I did. All I wanted was Shalom in the home, and it turned out nothing would have changed the circumstances for the better.
Finally, this past spring, things came to a head. Cris made a fire in the fireplace, but smoke was filling up the whole house (I suggested the flue was closed. Nope, they never cleaned the chimney). Anyhow, my kid, who has asthma, had an attack, and was furious with me for not speaking up. I was terrified to. And that’s when I realized I was choosing silence over my child’s health, and I spoke up. She regarded me with annoyance, and I pleaded with her just to open a window, turn the fire down, because my kid was suffering. She never did.
The next morning I was greeted with a text that told me we were to be out by the end of the following month. Not even 60 days. It broke my heart to tell my daughter, and the look on her face made me realize I never should have given up on that apartment.
The person I had known and trusted for over 20 years was now a stranger to me. She had every right to have her home set up the way she wanted, but she had become a bully, and she enjoyed lording it over us, Rick included. I’ve since sat, wondering where this was all coming from, but it doesn’t matter.
I’ve also had panic attacks, chronic worry and stress over how I would provide for my kid and I. I want to say I’m cautiously optimistic. Yes, she’s going to have to change schools once more, but being in our own new place, being able to do what we want to do, it’s a peace of mind that living with them I never had.
The sad unfortunate take away is that our friendship has changed, perhaps forever. She still has lashed out about things, and then she has periods where she is calm, almost the Cris I came to know and love. I have needed space, and am getting it. I’ve tried to talk to her about how I feel, and she has just been harsh and judgmental. So many people tell me this is not your friend anymore. I am now open to grieve, and the flood is overwhelming. The loneliness I feel has been truly like losing another family member. But I’m also furious. I haven’t spoken my peace. I know she has a lot to unload and I am done being kicked around.